Kyle Troutman: Flag on the play, MSHSAA

Saturday, December 11, 2021

In the quarterfinals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Argentina’s Diego Maradona got away with one of the biggest missed calls by an official in sports history when he used his hand to help score a goal in a 2-1 win over England.

After the game, Maradona said the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God” — thus, the “Hand of God” was named.

Last Saturday in the Class 2 state football championship between perennial Big 8 powerhouse Lamar and Lutheran St. Charles, an unintentional “Cougar of God” may have contributed to the 33-27 loss Lamar suffered in the final seconds of play.

Lutheran scored the game-winning touchdown with 6 seconds left, but game officials missed that 12 Cougars were on the field for the play.

There should have been a penalty called and Lutheran docked 5 yards, which would have given them a third-and-goal from the Lamar 7-yard line with the same 6 seconds.

Unfortunately, the call was missed, and MSHSAA rules state the result cannot be contested, as protest procedures end once the teams and officials leave the field.

For Lamar, it’s a heartbreaker of a no-call. Lutheran had made three extra points and had one blocked in the game, and after the go-ahead touchdown, the Cougars missed the PAT. Had the call been made and Lutheran forced to kick a field goal of about 24 yards, the game may have had a different result — a back-to-back title for the Tigers, their ninth in 11 seasons.

It’s the most unfair of ways to see a season end, at the last moment of the game in the highest echelon of play. Fortunately for Lamar, The Brotherhood will most likely survive the loss and come back in 2022 with chips on their shoulders and only a state title in sight.

Personally, my heart goes out to the officials of the contest. I refereed soccer for more than a decade, at points at very high levels in the youth game, and nothing is more devastating than missing a call, or making a wrong one, that affects the outcome of the game.

Each official on that crew is, at least for a little while, wrought with guilt. To miss such a call at such a critical moment is something that will affect those officials in many games to come.

Video evidence of the extra man on the field in the final play has been circulated and confirmed that a 5-yard illegal substitution penalty should have been called.

While MSHSAA’s hands are tied as far as changing the result of the game at this point, the lack of accountability by the body is a disappointment.

A video of the game-winning play was tweeted on the MSHSAA TV account on Dec. 3 but it has since been deleted.

No official is perfect, and not every wrong can be righted, but the deletion of the video says MSHSAA would rather ignore and forget than acknowledge and address.

MSHSAA is a promoter of exercising good sportsmanship and setting an example for youth attending sporting events. In this regard, the Association has dropped the ball.

Sportsmanship and setting an example requires a public acknowledgment and, while the call on the field is not MSHSAA’s fault specifically, an apology should go to Lamar and its players for the outcome of the game possibly being affected so greatly.

MSHSAA has set a precedent that makes the lack of action more grievous. In August this year, KMRS radio reported a Camdenton player was told by an official the team could not run onto the field carrying an American flag.

Responding to social media comments by parents on game day, MSHSAA on a weekend released a statement confirming there are no bylaws that would prevent the carrying of the flag.

Other sports governing bodies also have responded in situations like Lamar’s. The infamous Fifth Down Game in 1990, also played on Farout Field, saw Missouri lose to Colorado when the visitors were mistakenly given an extra down. In the aftermath of that incident, the Big Eight apologized for the error, though nothing could be done post-game to change it, and seven Big Eight Conference officials were suspended.

As the employer of officials and assignor for championship games, the ball of action is in MSHSAA’s court — and it has been dropped.

Maradona and his Argentine squad went on to win the 1986 FIFA World Cup, a feat that could have never happened if his “Hand of God” was properly called on the field. Colorado also went on to win a national championship in 1990, which may not have occurred with a loss at Missouri.

For Lutheran, though there was no malice on its part, the outcome is the same — champions.

FIFA has introduced video replay and review in its upper-level matches now, and though MSHSAA is nowhere near an international sporting body, maybe introducing replay and review in state championship games is something to consider going forward.

It wouldn’t change the outcome for Lamar this year, but it would go a long way to hoping the same call is not missed in the future.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.

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